Everywhere there is an outpouring of love, kindness, unity and sharing. We’re finding that in the vital and very important social distancing, we can unite our hearts together and help one another. We can reach out to others over the internet, social media, phones–even offering to leave food/groceries on doorsteps of those who need it. We are using our creativity to sing to others from our balconies, offer free live concerts from our homes, or give free tutorials online in painting or even easily crafting a face mask. Even in the necessary isolation and social distancing (and even because of it), the interconnectedness of all things is so apparent.
Those who are serving all of us in healthcare in every country are giving so much for the common good–at high costs to themselves. They need our love, our patience and our support. Those who are working on supplying food in our groceries and are delivering our packages are sacrificing for the common good and need our love, patience and kindness. Those who are having to self-isolate need our love and support– a phone call to check in or some needed supplies on the doorstep.
Let’s all try to find ways we can be of service. Be a part of this emerging new world based on love and kindness. Feeding hope and positivity over the internet and social media is a service of love. Sharing practical tips that you’ve discovered at home to better use resources is a service of love. Calling someone just to see how they are and chat is a service of love. Making people laugh with humor spreads opportunities for much needed balance during stressful times.
We always have been in this together, and this time puts a bright light on how we can do better, be better, love better.
There is time to reflect on what’s really important and how to find the “we” in things, instead of just the “me or mine” of things.
Together we can get through this and a newer, more loving, equitable world can emerge. Together we can be greater.
More than ever before Gandhi’s words are so true and important:
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist
What is mastery over ourselves? What would that look like?
Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill. It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.
The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind. Sound like a lot of work? It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it! How is it worth it? A simple example is when you make a conscious choice to change a thought. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making you feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in your mind all day to one that is more uplifting, you can change the course of your day. You can also change the world around you by changing that one thought. Have you ever been around someone who stays negative about almost everything or doesn’t want to see a hopeful solution? It has an effect on those who are around them. The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. The hopeful draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.
Another example of that mastery is when you look at and consider the effects a choice you make will have on others before you make it. Does insisting that it be your way make you blind to the needs of others? I can think of an instance or two in my life where I, out of fear, had inadvertently done this. If you think about it, perhaps you can remember an example of this in your own life–an instance where you were coming from a place of fear–fear of change or fear that another way would not bring the desired results. How many times have we seen the effects of choices made by others when consideration was not made first about the impact those choices would have? Perhaps you directly felt those effects, perhaps not, but the effects were apparent.
Seeking mastery over others is not leadership; it is an abuse of power.
Seeking mastery of oneself is living a conscious life and is genuine leadership.
Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life. A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service. It’s a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. It’s the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?” answered with, “I’m blessed! I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?” I’m humbled by that kind of mastery.
Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties. Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.
Have you ever not been able to sleep because thoughts keep running through your head?
While thinking through things is really helpful and important (some people could even do more of that!), sometimes we can detour our lives and get off track by thinking or analyzing too much. This over-thinking can turn into a negative direction and create a state of doubt, stress, anxiety or worry (or even cognitively convince oneself of a hypothetical situation that doesn’t even exist). Have you ever encountered a difficulty with someone, thinking that their intent was negative and found out later that you were very wrong about that? You discovered later that they did not have a negative intention at all?
From the perspective of Quantum Physics, simply put, thoughts are things. Thoughts have an effect on us, the world, and matter. When we allow ourselves to go down a path of negatively over-thinking something, we are having more of an effect, many times, than we realize.
Our minds work through association (association with past experiences) or perceptual connections, so given free rein, the mind can divert us from being in the moment with what is really needed. We are so much more than our thoughts. We are deeper than thought. We all have a core of strength, wisdom, joy, and, yes, love that is much truer than thought. And ideally, thought can be influenced by and arise out of that inner core of what we really are.
In many traditions throughout the ages, the area of the heart is associated with this part of us that is more than our minds, more than thought, even more than matter (or the physical aspects of life). For thousands of years, it has been associated with the seat of the soul, with universal love, with wisdom.
Here is an activity to try:
Sit quietly and focus on your breath (just pay attention to breathing in and exhaling).
Quiet yourself and focus on the area of your heart.
Visualize a beautiful white light with sparkles of gold in that area.
Allow the light to expand into your whole body (including your head), filling your cells with that light, like a honeycomb lighting up.
Let yourself feel the love coming from your heart or soul, that inner core of wisdom.
Send this light of love from your heart to bathe the difficulty or person with that light. Send positive thoughts for that situation or person.
You may find that this easy and simple activity not only helps bring you back to a more balanced place, it also helps with your perspective in a situation. You might even find that things improve and the truer aspects “come to light.” This is also a good activity (in addition to other obvious ways) when observing a situation or area of the world that needs help—pouring into that country or situation the love from your heart.
When you see yourself in a place of over-thinking, it helps to bring yourself back to the heart, to infuse the problem with love. To some people using the word “love” sounds fluffy, and to that I say that love is a powerful force in this world–more powerful than fear, hate, and separation. It is what we truly are. It is the hope for the world. What would this world look like if more and more people brought themselves to a place of love instead of fear?
I’ve just returned from a trip to India, and my heart is filled with gratitude for the lovely people I met on my travels. I will cherish the memories of the kindness and generosity of spirit of the Indian people for the rest of my life.
For a year, my husband and I had planned on going to India, and just one month before we were to leave, I fractured a vertebra in my back. We were not sure if it would be possible to go, but after my neurosurgeon prescribed a brace and advised that if I was careful I could go, we started packing. I experienced culture shock in the extreme when I arrived in Kolkata (Calcutta). From the window of the car, we saw mile upon mile of low income housing. When I say” low income,” I’m not talking about the level of low income housing in our country. In India, “low income ” living is a very simple life, sometimes without some of the things we consider the basic necessities in the U.S.
What I observed was that most of the people were happy–whether I saw them on the streets, bathing in the Brahamaputra River, or going about their work. When you made eye contact with someone, they really returned the connection in a kind and soulful way. In the northern corner of Assam, we visited the Mising Tribe. The people of the Mising (or Mishing) Tribe lived very simple lives. Their homes were built of bamboo and thatch and were elevated on stilts (to accommodate the monsoons every year). There was no electricity or running water in their houses. After being greeted with a beverage that they brew themselves, we were treated to a celebratory dance and welcome. We visited one of the families in their home, and they talked about their daily lives, how they grew their own vegetables, worked in the rice fields, tended their livestock and spent time with their families. The village seemed to be very tightly knit, and there were common areas for people to meet, visit and celebrate.
They had made the time to visit with us, and honored us as their guests, and they were proud to share their lives and ways of living. After visiting the family in their home, we were treated to a lovely meal in the common area. The food was served on a banana leaf, and we ate it with our hands. All the foods, rice, lentils and vegetables, were grown there and prepared from the whole foods. It was deliciously prepared and served with love.
People we met in India loved to give. They gave of themselves without expecting anything in return. If they could help, they did. If they could say a kind word, they did. If they could make something better for you, they did. At first I felt a little uncomfortable being the recipient of so much generosity. But I finally realized part of what made them happy was that they loved to give. Giving brought them joy, but this kind of giving was not a material kind of giving. This giving was in acts of kindness.
At this time of year, I am especially reflecting on giving in a non-material way. So many times in our culture, people judge giving by the stuff that is given. From time to time, I’ve taken to giving anonymously–whether it be a card of appreciation for someone, just letting them know that someone sees how special they are, or doing something for them without identifying myself. This always took the pressure off of giving. I knew that there were no expectations or strings attached–just giving for the joy of it. I love to give, and giving of myself (without a material present to give) is something I want to do more of, without the safety of anonymity.
The people of India have taught me more than I can articulate here, but they have reminded me of the potential of life in making a difference in small ways that turn out to be very big in the lives of the people they touch. When we boarded a short flight in India, the flight attendant noticed my back brace and wanted to help my husband with the carry ons (my husband was carrying mine and his). When he saw that we did not have seats together, he negotiated with some people so that we could sit together–my husband could be close by to help me if I needed it. After about 20 minutes into the flight, the flight attendant handed me an envelope. It was a get well card with the hand-written message, “We all are thinking of you with healing thoughts that you will soon be well. Remember us as we will always remember you.” The whole flight crew signed the card. My heart was so touched by that very sweet and simple gesture. I will always remember that. When we were disembarking in Delhi, the flight attendant told my husband that he had been carrying that card in his suitcase for several months, knowing that there would be someone he would want to to give it to. When he saw me board the plane, he knew the card would be for me.
What an amazing person, and what an amazing country.
Living in balance can be a challenge in our day-to-day lives, but during the holidays, balance is needed in order to truly experience the spirit of the season all the way through the New Year.
What helps in consistently creating balance? The answer is pretty simple but the living of it requires focus and attention. Here is the “how”—drum roll, please: Being in the present moment. But what does that mean, really?
Being in the present moment doesn’t mean that you don’t plan or don’t look at the effects potential actions might bring. In fact, being in the present moment requires both of those things. It also means that you look at what is right in front of you and take it step by step to make your way to your goals. When a stressful or urgent situation comes up, look at what is right there in sight—what opportunities are there for you to see in that moment. Being in that present moment will allow you to take action that recreates balance baby step by baby step.
For instance, say, you have a big “to do” list, and you are waiting in a long line during your holiday shopping. Instead of taking yourself out of the moment and worrying about all that you have to get done (getting more and more stressed and frustrated), take yourself back in the moment and remind yourself that balance is right there, now. You may find that you are can then enjoy a couple of children in line laughing and being playful (reminding you of the joy of the holidays). Or you might find that the elderly woman in front of you needs assistance and you are able to help her. You might notice that something you have been looking for is in a display right next to you in the checkout line (and you can check one more item off your “to do” list instead of driving across town.) Funny, sometimes, how being in the moment can work out, and it does bring more balance to our perceptions and experiences when we see that each moment has those opportunities.
Sometimes being in the moment may bring you to the realization that you are dreading yet another year of hectic shopping, wrapping, traffic, and long lines. Maybe you decide instead to negotiate with family and friends to simplify and just do gift cards. Or even negotiate giving to each person’s favorite charity for the holidays instead of giving stuff. You may come up with the idea to negotiate drawing names so that everyone just buys one gift, and everyone receives one gift.
This is the time of year to be at our best–a time to LIVE the spirit of the holiday season in love, goodwill, peace and joy. Be fully here, balanced and able to see the wonderful opportunities in this moment.
This is the season when hope builds for peace in our world and hearts open to that possibility.The most genuine affect that we can have in the world always begins with ourselves. Peace of mind, peace of heart. After all, we only truly have control over ourselves—our thoughts, actions, attitudes, beliefs and responses.
Sometimes the things that drag us down and take us out of the flow are invisible to us, not right in our faces. There are momentary stresses in our lives, but it’s the holding on to hurts, grievances or resentments that creates an armor around our hearts, making peace elusive. More often than not, it’s a hurt that we haven’t healed or let go of. That kind of pain can be a burden to carry, and our hearts become heavy, sometimes without our awareness of it. One can build walls to feel safe, being careful not to be vulnerable to that kind of pain again, but that kind of safety in isolation usually doesn’t bring peace. The human heart longs to express love in its many forms.
If the thought of someone who represents that pain or anger comes up, there is a reason the thought is there. Many times that thought is trying to tell us something—bringing it to our attention. I’ve realized that if I believe someone owes me an apology, then that’s a sure sign I haven’t yet forgiven him or her. It’s a burden to wait for an apology that may never come, but I can release that burden by forgiving in my own heart. The person it concerns never need know that I have forgiven and let go of whatever it may be. One of the best ways I’ve found to begin the process of forgiveness is to remind myself that we are all doing the best we can at the time, and it’s not up to me to judge what someone else’s best is. The guarantee that comes along with being human is that we will all make mistakes at one time or another.
Another part of forgiveness that can be easy to overlook is forgiving oneself for making a mistake. It’s hard to be at peace while being hard on oneself or mentally punishing oneself for messing up. To stumble and fall is human. To forgive, get up, dust oneself off and keep going is, well, divine.
This is the season that reminds us of peace and forgiveness–a season for healing, goodwill and love to carry us into a new year that could become the most meaningful, joyful year of our lives so far.
November is the month of Thanksgiving, and I find myself wanting to consciously and regularly take time out from my schedule, even if it’s just a few moments, to consider what I have to be grateful for. All of our lives contain a constant stream of moments, people, experiences and things that are gifts in our lives, but it’s too easy sometimes with busy schedules to let them slip by without acknowledging them. And, it’s way too easy to only remember the things that didn’t work out (or didn’t work out the way we wanted) in our daily experience. I’ve occasionally traveled down that road in the past, and the gratitude that comes from looking at what was working in my life has pulled me out of those times of not being in the flow.
The truth of it is, there are many more things that do work and are gifts in our lives than not, but it is so easy to settle into a pattern of looking at what is not working instead of what is. I have a friend who was born without eyes and has a disease that prevents him from ever being able to walk. He has a beautiful gift of music and has been able to play the piano since he was an infant. He lives everyday of his life with gratitude in his heart and on his lips. He is a happy person, even though he has to work very hard with the challenges he faces every moment of his life. He says of his disabilities, “Big deal. I have so much to be thankful for. “
Happiness is a choice. Always has been. Always will be.
I’ve found that gratitude is one of the most powerful states of mind and heart that creates happiness—consistent happiness. It’s pretty easy to be thankful and grateful for the big events and things, but it’s the little moment-to-moment experiences that make up a life of happiness and gratitude. Jotting down in my journal regularly at least six experiences, people, or things to be grateful for makes that joy more concrete, more real, and gives my mind a positive focus of what I want more of in my life. I can look at my journal when I’m finished with my entries and realize that it was a very good day and life.
Expressing thankfulness and gratitude to others for something they’ve done (or just for being who they are) not only is a gift to the giver but a gift to those on the receiving end. Obviously, this is not a big epiphany or even something new, but why don’t we do it more often? I work with clients who already know this simple, yet profound, truth, and they want to make the flow of that kind of communication and gratitude real in their workplaces and homes, because they know the power of gratitude and happiness.
It’s really nice that we have a day every year in November to remind us of all this, but shouldn’t the spirit of Thanksgiving permeate all days?
Gratitude can be a feast for our hearts and souls everyday of our lives.
Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 was the 140th birth anniversary of a very powerful role model in my life and the lives of many others, Mohandas K. Gandhi.He showed the world that one man can live with such impeccability and integrity that he could lead and become a peaceful force that would empower a whole nation. The way he lived his life became a true model in our world for living with integrity and love in intent, thought, word and deed.
There is a well-known story of a woman asking Gandhi one day to counsel her son to stop eating sugar because it was unhealthy for him. She lamented that her son would not listen to her. She explained to Gandhi that the boy would most certainly listen to him. Gandhi was silent for a moment and asked the mother to bring him back in a month, which she did. When the woman brought her son back, Gandhi said, “Son, you must stop eating sugar. It is not healthy for you.” The boy stopped eating sugar. When the woman asked Gandhi why he didn’t advise her son on their first meeting, Gandhi replied, “Dear Madam, I cannot counsel someone in doing something I cannot avoid, so I had to work on my habit first.”
So many times in our world, there are voices that say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Gandhi knew that the only true and genuine teaching and change comes from those who live it. He had too much integrity to allow himself to request something of someone if he did not do it himself.
People pay attention to our actions and our choices much more than the words we speak. We can all “be the change” we want to see in the world if we live that change. If we see a lack of understanding, peace and unity in our world, the way to bring change is to live the love, peace and unity in our own lives, in our own thoughts. This is the hope for our world. This is a powerful gift that Gandhi’s life brought to millions.
This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.
M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen. Really listen. “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.
Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.
Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake. I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.
Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.
Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!” But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.
When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life. It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating. I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.
When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.